Many of you know of the long delay in releasing HeavyMetal Battle Armor, which was almost ready for release last December, but somehow got horribly delayed. I have also released a bit of information here and there about the problems, but now want to let everyone know what happened.
First, I want to say that I now, finally, have official approval to proceed with HeavyMetal Battle Armor, as well as other new, and old, HeavyMetal products. I should mention that I have to get final approval on HMBA packaging and wording, but that should not take long. So, what happened?
Back in early December, I sent out HMBA for approval by the normal method, expecting a prompt approval, as had been the case in the past. The previous product requiring approval was HeavyMetal Aero way back in September of 2002, so it had been a while, and a lot of things had changed at WizKids. Randall Bills, always a great help and believer in HeavyMetal programs, no longer worked directly for WizKids/FanPro. In 2003, The Topps Company, Inc. (http://www.topps.com/
) acquired WizKids Games (Now WizKids, Inc.), requiring WizKids to conform to a lot of Topps' business practices, licensing, etc. In addition, Microsoft now owns the rights to all electronic/digital representations of BattleTech. Therefore, it was felt that a new agreement was required, and there was initial confusion as to whether HeavyMetal software, not a video game per se, would come under the WizKids gaming umbrella, or the Microsoft software umbrella. After several months of correspondence, between myself, WizKids and Microsoft, it was determined that in fact Microsoft had the right to control HeavyMetal software.
So, I needed permission from Microsoft to continue to develop my software. Yep, the big 'M'!
Anyhow, although things got delayed, what with dealing with a large company (and my very small products) and vacations and other delays, it turned out that Microsoft wasn't such a bad company to deal with at all! The attorney I corresponded and talked with turned out to be a previous BattleTech player! So, in a relatively short time, I had an agreement from them to allow me to develop and market my HeavyMetal software. In the process, however, they reminded me that their agreement only applies to the electronic rights to produce Classic BattleTech software; I still needed to get a license from WizKids to use their rules, images, gaming system and designs in my products. So, back to the drawing board with WizKids!
Again, the Topps' influence required more of licensees that I was in a position to accept. It would take some changes to make things work. Randall, and the great people from FanPro, talked to Jordan Weisman, founder of WizKids as well as BattleTech, FASA and more. Jordan realized that HeavyMetal software benefits FanPro (and indirectly WizKids), BattleTech players and the Classic BattleTech community in general, and was instrumental in relaxing some of the requirements to be a WizKids licensee. While the games convention season took its toll on time, the final result was that we were able to arrive at an agreement that everyone could live with. The agreement has now been signed and executed, and that portion of the long saga to be "official" again is over.
I still have to get approval on HeavyMetal Battle Armor itself, but the ground rules have been agreed upon, and that should not take long at all. With any luck, HMBA will be released and available before Christmas.
Thanks to Randall and those from Microsoft, WizKids, FanPro and others who helped work all this out. And thanks to those of you who waited patiently (and some, not so patiently) for the release of HMBA. Now, it's time to get /really/ busy!